{Guest Post} 3 Times a Baker

Greetings, Dear Edna readers! De Facto Redhead here, back for another kick at the Christmas can, and this year I’m tantalizing you with some of my holiday baking.

Over the years, Erin and I have complained about the pressures of the Christmas season, and how completing our baking in time for Christmas was impossible. Somehow, however, we always found the time to create tin after tin of cookies and squares, happily spreading our Christmas cheer, forgetting the pain until the next year rolled around. Well, last Christmas, I finally reached my limit — I was back in school in a program that was demanding on my time and there was just no way I was going to be baking up a slew of goodies. So I didn't. And guess what? Nothing happened. My parents didn't disown me, my friends didn't stop talking to me, my boyfriend didn't break up with me, and I didn't get fired.

Later, when I went home for Christmas, at a time when I was finally on vacation, I made a batch of cinnamon buns on Christmas Eve and that was the extent of my Christmas baking. I felt totally relaxed and actually enjoyed what I was doing, rather than worrying about getting it over with so I could start the next thing. You know, it was just your regular run-of-the-mill neurotic type-A personality keepin' it real.

I have carried this easygoing philosophy over to this Christmas, and only as the need has presented itself have I baked something. Thus far, there have been three events worthy of my superior efforts (ha!), so here, on this third-day-of-Christmas celebration, I present to you a collection that represents my baking bliss.

1) My Christmas cookie exchange at work eschewed the traditional cookie-exchange rules. Instead, the 12 of us baked two batches of whatever we wanted and then divvied everything up between ourselves. I baked the PEI Cookies (recipe and explanation of why the cookies have that name found HERE, on my blog) and Chocolate Peppermint Bark (from the 2009 Taste of Home Christmas Cookies and Candies recipe book). The cookies are a more challenging recipe while the bark is about as simple as it gets (both are delicious!).

Chocolate Peppermint Bark
6 squares (1 ounce each) white baking chocolate
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup crushed peppermint or spearmint candies, divided

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate at 70% power, stir until smooth. Repeat with chocolate chips. Stir 6 tablespoons of crushed candies into each bowl. Drop white chocolate and semisweet chocolate in alternating spoonfuls onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet.

With a metal spatula, cut through the chocolate to swirl, spreading to ¼-inch thickness. Sprinkle with remaining crushed candies. Chill until firm. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

2) My boyfriend and I had a little Christmas dinner party last weekend, and I decided to attempt my first pecan pie. I was actually surprised at how well it turned out, and the recipes for both the crust and the pie filling are ones I will be using again. You can find the crust recipe I used HERE, on allrecipes.ca (I added a tablespoon of sugar and used half butter, half shortening), and the pie filling recipe HERE, also on allrecipes.ca (I made no significant alterations, other than to place pecan halves on the top of the pie).

3) My friend Lee and I have faithfully watched The Witches of East End all season, and since this past weekend was the finale, we honoured it with Spiced Christmas Mochas (his creation) and Sparkly Buckeyes (my creation, courtesy of the pullout “50 No-Bake Treats” booklet in Food Network Magazine, December 2013). “Sparkly Buckeyes” is definitely a suspect name, but if you call a spade a spade, they are just harmless little peanut butter balls.

Sparkly Buckeyes
Beat 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter, and a pinch of salt with a mixer. Form into 1-inch balls. Dip the tops in melted semisweet chocolate and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Chill until firm. (I think they are best frozen!)

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